Open Book Essay Contest

Thank you to all of our wonderful essay participants for sharing stories of your family history. You have touched our hearts and our souls. Congratulations to our winner and finalists!

Scroll down to read the Grand Prize and the Finalist essays.


David’s Legacy by Dodie Gregg

Dodie Gregg lives in Pasadena with her gigantic 90 pound labradoodle, Moose. She has loved writing stories her whole life. As a teacher for many years, she had the opportunity to develop her writing skills along with those of her students. She took an early retirement from her role as an Academic Performance Coach in the Arcadia Unified School District to spend more time with her husband who was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in 2019. He always encouraged her to follow her passion for reading and writing, so when he died in March of 2021, she decided to make writing a full time occupation. Since then, she has written two picture books, two middle grade novels and is working on a third. She was inspired to enter this contest because she has always admired the Pasadena Literary Alliance and the work they do to support women authors.


My Cantonese Grandmother by Elaine Chu

Elaine Chu works as a VA physician. She enjoys reading, storytelling and blogs about sustainability and plant-based foods. She hikes, practices yoga, and builds Legos for relaxation and contemplation.  Her essay was created as part of a USC creative writing class.

Silver Spoons Speaking by Lori Lyn Greenstone

Lori Lyn Greenstone, a former college composition instructor, is currently using fragments from ancestors to weave together a dual-timeline novel about the woman to whom Van Gogh gave his cut-off ear and the great-granddaughter who inherits her journal-sketchbook written in French. Lori often travels to France for research, but lives in Camas, WA with her husband and the youngest of their six children, a 16 year-old daughter. Lori loves the Pacific Northwest for all its opportunities to paddle board, ski, bike, hike, and read—her favorite book is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.